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Monday, 5 June 2017

The most embarrassing article in National Geographic--and a nice poem

In a past post, I mentioned that the National Geographic Magazine had become a propaganda arm of the US Military by 1943. Today I discovered that only about five years earlier, in what National Geographic is now calling "among the most embarrassing [article] in National Geographic’s history," NGM had served as a mouthpiece for Hitler. Free-lance American correspondent and photographer Douglas Chandler provided for the February 1937 issue a 9000-word article entitled "Changing Berlin," with "47 pages of dramatic images showing swastika-draped buildings and reverential descriptions of a city under Nazi rule."

But note, his submission was fully in conformance to NGM editorial standards: to include only stories “of a kindly nature” and strictly apolitical. One wonders where those standards had gone only five years later, and if perhaps a misplaced sense of guilt was behind the change.

During the War in Europe, Chandler became a literal mouthpiece for Hitler, railing against Jews and Bolsheviks on short-wave broadcasts aimed at America. After the war ended, he was hunted down and brought back to the US to stand trial for treason. Convicted, he served a fifteen-year "life sentence" before being released to return to Europe.

The editors at the National Geographic Society had a lot of explaining to do when irate letters began to pour in from listeners who had heard Mr. Chandler repeatedly mention his connection to the National Geographic Society during his propaganda broadcasts. Apparently no such apologies were ever made in defense of their pro-USA propaganda articles.

Now, while I am at making this month's post, I want to share with my readers a poem published over half a century ago (perhaps written a quarter-century before that), and apparently never yet posted to the Internet. I say apparently, because in recent years search engines have become so sure of what their customers are looking for that simply entering in a character string no longer ensures that any or all online sources containing that string will come up in the results. But here it is:

In the solemn stillness of an early dawn is heard
The crystal-throated reveille of a waking bird.
Donning golden slippers arises then the Day
And flings across the morning sky her crimson negligee.

Enchanting now, she saunters forth to spread abroad her charm
And shakes perfume from every flower to smooth upon her arm.
She paints the children's bodies brown, their faces rosy fair,
And with soft fluting of the wind breathes kisses through their hair.

Shrill piccolo of the cricket warns that night at last has come!
She gathers up her flowing skirts and hastens quickly home.
But looking up into the sky, a wary child might find--
She left her veil of mauve chiffon trailing far behind.

--Helen Wessel, Natural Childbirth and the Christian Family. pp. 3-4. Fourth Revised Edition, (c) 1983, Harper & Row Publishers

P.S. Sure enough, this poem in the same form can be found online in the original 1963 edition--IF one knows where, and how, to look. The book was contemporaneously published under a similar title, Natural Childbirth and the Family, as well as under the later and even more innocuous title The Joy of Childbirth. All likewise online, but apparently now out of print.

P.P.S. I just noticed, in proofreading this prior to publication, that, in addition to omitting the final letter of 'early', resulting in the nonsense reading of "earl dawn," I had committed the scribal error of homeoteleuton, skipping from 'up' in the antepenultimate line, to 'into' in the penultimate, with the resultant loss of the end of one line and the beginning of the next. Note that this was probably influenced by the plausibility of the new reading, "gathers up into the sky."

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